United Airlines Says It’ll Use Electric Planes for Flights Under 200 Miles

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United Airlines Says It’ll Use Electric Planes for Flights Under 200 Miles

Legacy airline United recently announced plans to operate electric aircraft for some short-haul routes by 2030. As the aviation industry faces mounting pressure to decarbonize, United aims to pioneer battery-powered regional flights within the next few years.

United confirmed it has conditionally agreed to purchase electric planes currently under development by startup Heart Aerospace. The ES-19 model, slated to enter service by 2026, can carry 19 passengers up to 250 miles based on today’s battery technology. That makes it ideal for paths like San Francisco to Los Angeles or New York to Boston, which is why United initially wants to deploy them to hubs with high connectivity.

Some analysts are skeptical whether e-planes can move beyond demonstration stage soon considering rigorous FAA certification standards. Current lithium-ion batteries are also too heavy with inadequate energy density for more substantial routes. Yet United believes rapid advancements underway in cell technology mean that by 2028 to 2030, they can viably fly an electric aircraft with capacity for 75 passengers on trips up to 200 nautical miles.

Competitors aren’t sitting idle either – American Airlines invested in U.K. firm Vertical Aerospace and plans to pre-order dozens of their forthcoming VA-X4 craft. Air Canada also placed a letter of intent for electric regional aircraft being produced by Heart rival Electra Aero. So while still a nascent concept, major carriers foresee a battery-powered segment emerging within regional commercial aviation this decade.

shorter distances from city centers avoiding connections. Energy efficiency gains mean lower operating costs as well if the supporting charging infrastructure gets built out. Though planes would still require sustainable aviation fuel, electric propulsion unlocks progress cutting aviation emissions, which are disproportionately warming given altitudes. This could help airlines hit their carbon neutrality aims while delivering travelers a smoother and quieter flight experience.

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